When you study the lives of high achievers, you’ll find that the happiest and most successful people are those who find their true calling and pursue it relentlessly. The career they pursue is much more than a job for them; it’s a purpose. What they choose to do for a living is far from just a way to pay the bills; it’s a calling they believe they were born to do.
Knowing this, we all want to find our true calling in life. We all want to find that one career we were made for.
Finding your true calling is not to be taken lightly and there’s more than one way to find it. (See this article on how Mike Leach discovered his calling.)
Lou Holtz, the legendary college football coach who led Notre Dame to the national championship in 1988, has a simple three-step process for finding the career that will be your calling…
First, you have to do something you love. Work isn’t work when you love what you do. If you dread going to the office in the morning and can’t wait for the workday to end, you need to seriously rethink your career choice.
Second, you need to find something you do well. You might love to play golf, but if you shoot 100 every time you play, you’re not very good, and you’re going to starve to death playing golf for a living.
Finally, you have to find somebody who will pay you. You might love something, and be very good at it, but if no one is willing to pay you for doing it, you don’t have a career. I love eating Snickers bars, and I’m very good at it. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find anyone who is willing to pay me to eat Snickers bars, so that aspect of my life doesn’t qualify as a profession.
— Lou Holtz, from his book Wins, Losses, and Lessons
Let’s convert Lou Holtz’s three-step process to a set of three questions for evaluating your current career path.
Do you love what you do?
Study the world’s top achievers and you’ll find one common theme again and again: they love what they do. The work they do doesn’t feel like work to them because they enjoy it so much. They can’t wait to start each new day. They don’t pursue money, they pursue their passion—and the money tends to follow.
To be clear, every career—no matter how much you love it—will be challenging and there will be times where you’re aggravated by the adversity you encounter. However, when you truly love what you do, you’ll find a way to turn every obstacle into an opportunity.
Are you good at it?
As Lou Holtz points out, you need to honestly evaluate yourself and make sure you’re backing up your passion with results. Luckily, the things we’re passionate about tend to be things we’re naturally talented at. And the harder you work at something, the better you’ll get at it.
Still, you may love basketball but eventually discover that you don’t have the talent to play basketball for a living. This is when you have to be realistic and recognize that perhaps you’re being called in a new direction. If playing basketball for a living isn’t an option, maybe your true calling is to be a basketball coach or a basketball reporter or to work in the front office of a basketball organization, etc.
Can you make money doing it?
There are a number of things you may love doing and be very good at doing, but unless it’s possible to make a living doing those things, none of them can be considered your calling.
How do you know whether you can make money following your passion? Simple, look around and see if anyone else is making money doing the same thing. If they are, then there’s no reason you can’t do it too. Ask yourself, “Why not me?”
If you don’t see others making money doing what you want to be doing, don’t give up on the idea right away. You might have to get creative here, but in a capitalistic society there’s almost always a way to turn your passion into profits. As Warren Buffett likes to tell young students: find something you love to do and then find a way to make money doing it.
Passion, Proficiency, and Profitability. When you have all three of those Ps, you’ll find your true calling.